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Saturday, November 30, 2013

Cat on the prowl

Whilst out walking along Combe Wood Lane this week I hear a commotion from a small flock of house sparrows. These birds are usually about along the hedgerows in this area and no doubt roost in the eaves of a number of older cottages along the lane. The noise alerted me to them as they were obviously making alarm calls so I thought there might be a sparrow hawk about. 

Male house sparrow
However, walking closer to the hedge soon identified the reason for the sparrows' concern. It was a black cat sitting in the middle of the field.

I noticed however that it wasn'tactually showing any interest in the sparrows in the hedge and then, only when it saw me and stood up did a pied wagtail fly up into the air in front of it. The sparrows had been a useful lookout for the pied wagtail and the cat gave up its hunt and stalked off.

Autumn colour lingers into winter

Colour in SSW is really beautiful this year as the following two pictures show.

The leaves on the trees everywhere seem to be hanging on longer this year and the oak trees in particular, after having shed their wonderful acorn crop, are still almost in full leaf, some are even still green! This is quite unusual, especially now we have had a few frosty mornings. The delay is probably due to the hot summer and fairly mild autumn which means that the chlorophyll, which makes the leaves green, is still being produced. No doubt they will all fall quickly once they start and there will be more clearing up to do on the paths and patio in the garden.

If you can though, try to use the leaves for compost rather than burning them or adding to the garden recycling bins. To see how to turn them into free compost see here

Not only are the trees retaining their leaves , there are also some unseasonal blooms about, like these rhododendrons below, seen at Chilworthy last weekend, which would normally be out in May /June. Another odd feature of the weather or possibly climate change?

The birds are still not flocking to the garden feeders but there have been increasing numbers of starlings in the village this year which are chattering away to themselves high up in the lime trees which overhang our garden. After spending time "talking" amongst themselves they suddenly all take to the air, their wings making a sound like papers being riffled together, before coming back to rest on the topmost branches again.
There are also increasing numbers of field fare and redwing locally, the former announcing their presence with their football rattle like chuckle, the latter being almost silent.

As winter gets a hold, try to keep feeding the birds and remember, a source of clean water for them to both drink and bathe in are really helpful to our feathered friends

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

First frost of winter

Whilst October went out with a big blow and November came in with quite a bit of rain temperatures remained quite mild until last night when we finally had (I believe) the first frost of the season.

Yesterday though we had a morning at the Greylake RSPB reserve over on the Levels. The weather was kind with wonderful mackerel skies

 and we were surprised to see dragonflies and some rather tatty looking red admirals still on the wing as they made the most of the sunshine. Unfortunately the former will shortly die, usually only lasting 2-4 weeks as adults and the latter is unlikely to survive the winter either, even though some do manage to hibernate in sheltered spots, most of the ones  we will be seeing again in the spring actually migrate here from Europe.

Other birds we were lucky enough to see included a peregrine and some close up snipe. The peregrine, after spending some time preening whilst sitting on top of a fence post, suddenly took off in hot pursuit of three unwary pigeons which flew high over it. It flew at them, separating them and then targeted one, easily catching it up as it flew on in a panic. I did not see the outcome as they dived behind some trees but as a peregrine emerged soon after and flew back to a nearby pylon, often used by them as a look out point, I suspect the pigeon made its escape successfully.

The snipe, in contrast, remained in the reeds, brilliantly camouflaged, so even though it was close to the hide for most of our stay, occasionally preening, it was easy to miss unless pointed out.

This is always a good reserve to watch winter wildfowl from the comfort of a hide and the peregrine is often joined by merlin and other birds of prey in the winter months as it a useful "feeding" station for them when the weather really turns cold.
There is also a newly built hide( see below), which is slightly raised and  which, whilst not totally weather proof, gives even better views of the pools and reeds in front of it.